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Day 1 (21 Dec Friday)

•  Ree , Litty and Mia pick us up from Austin airport in the RV. The RV is large, lots of room and quite comfortable….5 people could sleep comfortably.

•  Seejo and Ree take turns in driving through Texas , Litty and I get together a pile of romance novels to read along the journey.

•  It is a long long drive to the KOA campground in New Mexico from Austin . We reach there at around midnight.

•  We sleep in the RV- it was cold but comfortable!

Day 2 (22 Dec- Saturday)

•  We are impressed with the facilities at the KOA campground especially the ultra clean restrooms.

•  The first stop of the day was Carlsbad caverns . They were humongous caverns both in area and total volume but not as pretty as Luray. All the formations were more gigantic and there were some formations that were new to us, popcorn formations, drinking straw formation and lions tails.

•  Managed to see a bit of white sands but it was too dark while we passed the White sand Monument on our way to Benson , AZ

•  Seejo falls down fro the upper birth in the middle of the night. The RV was still intact!

Day 3 (23 Dec-Sunday)

•  We started the day by clicking photographs of Mia at the Benson campground. It was a prettier campground but not as clean as the one at Carlsbad .

•  First stop was the San Xavier Del Mac Mission, an old Catholic mission aimed at preaching to the local Indians. Its like a big white structure which stands out against the stark desert-like landscape of Southern Arizona . There was predictably a cross on top a nearby hill for those who want to “earn” their prayers!

•  Brief stop at the local road side stalls to have fried bread – local specialty almost bhatura like in taste to be eaten with chili. We also tried the trip and corn soup but that wasn’t that much of a hit.

•  Next destination, we drove through the Saguaro National Park to see really tall cactus. They grow slowly, each arm takes about 75 years to develop. We marvel at how old the 5 armed ones are. We also love the various colors of cactus—pink, purple , yellow!

•  Next we drive upto the Catalina scenic highway to Mt Lemmon. Mia got her first taste of snow at Mt Lemmon. We stayed there to see the sun set and the full moon rise up on the other side.

•  Drive back through Tucson to Phoenix and crashed at Seejo’s friends place. Sanjay and Anju prepared Indian pasta with a wonderful cream of coriander soup for us!

Day 4 (24- Dec Monday)

•  Slow morning spent playing with Mia at Sanju-Anju’s house while Seejo and Ree went to fix the generator in the RV

•  We drove along the cactus filled landscape to see the Montezuma Castle to see natural cave like structures where native Americans built dwellings in. I can’t believe they would climb up all the way with water and other groceries! It is like a 5 story house that housed about 50 people, the rooms were built keeping in mind the natural formations of the hills.

•  Sunset and dinner near beautiful Sedona with houses having warm terracotta walls. We stayed in the best western in Paige.

•  Exchanged gifts at midnight, Mia loved jumping up and down the half unpacked suitcases.

Day 5 (25-Dec Tuesday)

•  First stop on Christmas day, the Antelope Canyon , narrow slot canyons with several beautiful shades that change as the light inside changes.

•  Brief stop and Lake Powell straddling between Arizona and new Mexico

•  A Long long long drive where I devour silly romantic novels, after a long long time

•  Monument Valley – the inside of the park was closed for Christmas but we did manage to take some good external shots, despite the biting cold.

•  Stayed in Grants, NM

Day 6 (26-Dec Wednesday)

•  Acomo Pueblo , the next day morning to see the oldest continous native American settlement. It was situated on top of a tiny hill and actually had people living there without electricity, running water etc. Of course they have bottled water, generators and lots of fancy cars! Casinos pay big money J . We weren’t allowed photographs as it was during the Christmas celebrations. But we could see the native dancing (deer dance and buffalo dance, I think). There religion was an interesting amalgamation of Christianity and nature worship, they had their own governing rules, a matriarchal society At every nook at corner , the locals were selling hand made pottery—exquisite work but prohibitively expensive. There was a guided tour to show us the Pueblo which is still home to 5-10 families.

•  We spent too much time there to see the Bandelier monument, so we next reached the Sandia Tram Parkway in Albuquerque , rode up the tramway to the top of the mountain to see the glittering vast expanse of the city below.

•  Stayed in Santa Fe in a very quaint lodge

Day 7 (27-Dec Thursday)

•  First stop was the San ildelphonso Pueblo , Another Pueblo where native American culture is clearly followed with its own language (Tiwa)

•  Mia enjoyed the snow-time very much.

•  Drove to see Santuaro di Chimayo church, one of the oldest Catholic churches in US, a very tiny but pretty church. The entire church was surrounded by so many crosses. Also every room around was adorned with garlands made of red chillies. Very stark against the light white snow sprinkled all over.

•  We reached back to Santa Fe to have lunch in the Pink Adobe—recommended by travel guides and endorsed by us (now!)

•  Loretto Chapel with the magic stairway. When the church needing a staircase in the chapel, legend has it that St. Joseph himself displayed his carpentry skills by creating a magnificent staircase in a restricted space.

•  Some other Santa Fe Churches

•  Mia finally loses her stranger anxiety and comes to me in the Santa Fe Plaza , which made Santa Fe the high point of the whole trip

•  Met up with Ketan & Sheetal and some weird chocolate mixtures.

Day 8 (28-Dec Friday)

•  Petroglyphs : Ree and Litty went all the way to see some stone drawings and came away unimpressed, while Seejo and I struggled to book dates for the visa stamping in Bombay

•  Boca del Apache : Bird sanctuary with thousands of wild geese, a single falcon and cranes. Mia loved the birdies and was all ready to run off and play with them.

•  Cops pulls over Ree for alleged speeding, while on our way to Sonoma . There is something about me in the passenger seat that makes cop pull over!

Day 9 (29-Dec Saturday)

•  Back to San Antonio where we had a hellish wait at the Greyhound station before reaching San Marcos

•  Brief stop at Litty’s school.

•  Mia is most excited about reaching home and runs around in a frenzy

•  Sushi dinner, at a new Japanese restaurant in Austin . Excellent aahi tuna and some super sushi rolls.

Day 10 (30-Dec Sunday)

•  Lots of tacos at the Taco Deli where we sampled almost everything on the menu!

•  Back home after a great 10-day break.

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